Government drops plans to sell off Land Registry

Plans to part-privatise the Land Registry have been paused by the government, in a move welcomed by trade unions who have been campaigning against the sell-off.

First Civil Service Commissioner Ian Watmore photographed by Photoshot for CSW

By Winnie.Agbonlahor

17 Jul 2014

Michael Fallon (pictured), the then minister for business and energy at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), who has since been appointed defence secretary in this week's reshuffle, announced in Parliament on Monday that “at this time, no decision has been taken to change Land Registry’s model.”

However, he added: “Given the importance of the Land Registry to the effective operation of the UK property market, we have concluded that further consideration would be valuable.”

The announcement followed a public consultation, which was launched in January and considered proposals including moving the 150-year-old agency from the civil service to a government-owned company, and moving it into a joint venture with a private company.

The proposals had been heavily opposed by trade unions including the PCS, which staged a two-day strike in May to protest against the plans.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, who hailed this week’s decision as a “major win”, said: "This is hugely significant for our members and the industry professionals who ran a fantastic campaign and successfully exposed the emptiness of the government's case.

"It is also a victory for businesses and the public who need the Land Registry to remain in state hands, free from any profit motive and conflict of interest."

FDA assistant general secretary Naomi Cooke said that the FDA supports the government’s decision to halt moves to privatise the agency, and called on the government “to let Land Registry staff concentrate on delivering high-quality services to the public, rather than being under the constant threat of reorganisation.

“Dividing up the organisation responsible for the security of property ownership in England and Wales was a high risk and ill-conceived notion from the start,” she said. “ FDA members working in the Land Registry - as well as homeowners and tenants alike - can breathe a sigh of relief that this proposal has been ruled out for the time being.

“The FDA now calls on all parties to commit to maintaining the Land Registry as a unified civil service organisation, providing the stability it badly needs.”

A senior Tory figure told the Financial Times that the decision to shelve the plans followed a row between the coalition partners, complaining that the Lib Dems “have been really difficult over the whole thing.”

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